It’s no secret that high-profile rappers like Meek Mill have been targeted by cops, but there’s one difference this time: The people have targeted the system right back. From Meek’s stubborn judge to his former probation officer to the corrupt cop who allegedly framed him, the justice system has been in the crosshairs of Meek’s advocates — including celebrity ones like Jay-Z, Van Jones, and Philly sports owners. As Meek recently told NBC’s Lester Holt, “I think God delivered me a job to help people — helping minorities that come from these situations like myself.” The #FreeMeekMill campaign that has sprouted since his incarceration is indeed helping others by making the criminal justice system’s flaws front page news.
Today, roughly 80 men who were convicted based on the testimony of former Philly cop Reginald Graham may be freed at a hearing in Philadelphia. Graham is on a “do not call” list, first reported by the Philadelphia Enquirer, of cops unfit to testify in court due to their past corruption. The names on the list were previously kept secret because the DA, according to an Enquirer source, “did not want to release the list out of concern for the officers’ privacy rights and the broad impact it might have on past convictions involving the officers.”
That broad impact is being felt in full force, largely thanks fo Meek. Without his high-powered legal team exhaustively pursuing ways to set him free, the list may have remained submerged. It may have just been a local story. Instead, the city of Philadelphia’s corruption is on front street for the whole world to see, and there is widespread pressure on the city to rectify the damage done by their police force and now-jailed former DA Seth Williams.
Current Philly DA Larry Krasner has already said that Meek should be freed and given a new trial. Given the fact that his original 2008 gun and drug case hinges on the testimony of Graham, which was negated by his own colleagues in sworn affidavits, a new trial shouldn’t be a consideration. Meek should be one of those 80+ people getting their chance at freedom today, but his case’s judge, Genece Brinkley, ignored his bail request and set another hearing for June.
That unfair decision is emblematic of Brinkley’s headstrong conduct in her interactions with Meek. In November, she ignored the DA and prosecutor’s no-jail suggestion when sentencing him to 2-to-4 years for probation violation. Brinkley says the violation was because he went to rehab in Atlanta without her permission and had harmless, chargeless, police interactions in New York and Missouri. Meek’s lawyers have consistently maintained that Brinkley is “infatuated” with Meek due to exploits that have been reported in detail, from asking Meek to record a song about her to going to his community service and chastising him for not folding clothes.
There may be consequences coming soon for her alleged impartiality. The FBI is investigating her conduct, which is a rare occurrence. Meek’s legal team thinks there is a relationship between her and Meek’s former manager Charlie Mack. She has allegedly continuously hinted that Meek leave Roc Nation management to return to Mack — who initially helped him rise from a local Philly rapper into a potential star. If the FBI does act to penalize Brinkley, it won’t just benefit Meek, but the hoards of people whose cases she’s perhaps unfairly overseen.
Rolling Stone reported that Brinkley once sent a nine-months pregnant parolee to prison. Perhaps she considers her no-nonsense temperament a form of tough love, but she’s actually proof that police aren’t the only legal figures capable of brutality.
Countless rappers have been in unjust legal situations throughout the years. There’s a #Free(InsertRapper) campaign seemingly multiple times a year. Meek represents the first time, however, that an artist is helping initiate progress that will benefit more than just them.
Meek Mill’s case is a prime example of the criminal justice system’s predation. He’s spent years being a veritable slave to the criminal justice system which is at the heart of capitalism’s sustenance. He’s a high-profile entertainer, but there are “everyday” people in legal predicaments like his who have been held back from employment and proper education because of their criminal record. The upper class depends on the poverty of those roughly 6 million people convicted of felonies — not to mention the money taken from families through bail, court fees, and charges for prison phone privileges. Meek himself has reportedly lost a whopping $30 million due to Brinkley’s propensity to regulate him and block his travel for shows.
He was targeted by a high-ranking NYPD officer who watched him doing a wheelie in a music video with other people — and arrested just him the next day. He was then sentenced to an egregious probation violation based on an original case in which the cop allegedly falsified his testimony — and was dirtier than most of the people he arrested. In between, court officers asked him for money and his probation officer held a neighborhood grudge over his head.
It’s little wonder that these professionals carried themselves in direct defiance of justice. No one challenged them. That’s what people mean when they say the system isn’t broken, but working with cruel efficiency. Temple professor and media figure Marc Lamont Hill reminded the crowd outside of last Monday’s hearing that their fight is “not just about Meek Mill. It’s for every single person locked up in these cages that can’t have a news camera, that don’t have expensive attorneys.”
For years, these figures have mistreated citizens that pay their salaries with impunity, knowing that their superiors don’t care enough about Black and Brown people to stop them. Even before his recent nightmare, Meek had complained about his probation officer and the cop who mercilessly beat him. He made the very mugshot showcasing that police brutality an album cover, but it took him actually going to jail for people to wake up to what’s happening. The #FreeMeekMill campaign has been the most effective progressive movement in hip-hop history based on both the amount of awareness raised about criminal justice reform and the pressure put on civic officials.
Genece Brinkley’s will to punish Meek can’t supercede his bogus case forever — every day it looks more and more likely that he will see true justice served by his eventual release. What happens next is a challenge for all of us. His team won’t be around to fight tooth and nail for every single person whose faced a legal challenge. Hopefully all the journalists who covered his plight will continue to keep public pressure on city and state officials, and all the people who visited Meek will do their part — especially New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, whose NFL has blackballed Colin Kaepernick for protesting the very predicament Meek is in. He said after the visit that, “we have to do something with criminal justice reform.” How about starting with not ostracizing the athletes who agree with you?
Advocating for criminal justice reform initiatives and electing officials who take them serious is a mandate. Hashtags are cool, attending rallies is admirable, but it’s time to enact true change. In the words of Meek Mill:
“When it’s time to vote for governor, when it’s time to vote for judges, DAs, vote,” he said. “Let’s vote for people that’s into justice reform and helping the urban community. ‘Cause, you know, we’re being affected by it but we’re not voting… The most important thing I want to say is vote.”